If you are considering a corporate career after sixth form, you’ll know doubt have heard about the option to take either a Higher or Degree Apprenticeship which offers a Foundation and/or Bachelor degree qualification alongside paid employment with the very companies that you might be considering on graduation?

Which route would be better for you? Only you can decide … but over three instalments, we’ve been comparing these academic and apprenticeship pathways based on our experience of researching and advertising level 4+ opportunities locally. Today, in the final part of this comparative series, we’re focusing on the application process to help you make a more informed choice about which route might be better for you.

Step (1) – Check any pre-requisites before applying

Applying for a Higher or Degree Apprenticeship typically requires good academic grades, but the employer will also be looking for relevant qualities, skills and experience to ensure that they get the best person for the job – and someone who can cope with the simultaneous demands of academic study and the workplace.

The apprenticeship advert will set out the requirements for applicants and, as you are technically applying for a job, these will include an employability skills list. They do vary depending on the type of industry so check first (e.g. engineering may require more practical skills than accountancy), but examples can include:

  • People Skills – leadership, team-building, communication, team working, customer service
  • Practical Skills – attention to detail, analytical, curious about how things work, repair skills
  • Personal Skills – quick learner, ambitious, willing to learn, self-motivated, initiative
  • General Skills – design experience, practical with your hands, problem-solving

With UCAS Apply, you are well advised to research the qualities valued by your preferred Uni to ensure that you are making a good choice and to help you prepare for a possible later interview. However, it is rare to find a skills requirement list. Adverts for Uni degree courses usually focus on the benefits that you could get from studying the course and typically only list the specific academic expectations for entry.

Step (2) – Apply online

If you are happy that you can match your achievements to the pre-requisites in an apprenticeship advert, you might choose to go ahead and apply. It will have been worthwhile checking your skills and (expected) grades against the advertised list as the online application form will most likely ask for these in addition to the details of any work experience – the more relevant the better.

When applying to Uni, you’ll have completed an online application on the UCAS website, entering the requested information such as your GCSE results and expected A-level grades to allow the Uni to quickly match your academic application to their requirements.

The Uni applications team will then review your Personal Statement. This is essentially your written opportunity to explain why you are applying, your proven interest in the course and any relevant experience of the subject. It is almost entirely focused on the course with only part asking for details of any of your ‘other’ achievements or attributes. However, it is also an opportunity for you to showcase the skills you have which could match to those most valued by the Uni, therefore do make time for this (see Transferable Skills blogs on Careersnearhere and on the information page at the bottom of the website).

Step (3) – What to expect after submitting your online application

If your online application for an apprenticeship is successfully received, you can then expect to go through a number of different selection stages. These will vary depending on the employer, but in the larger firms, the process can be very similar to the graduate recruitment programmes.

Selection can start with a mixture of fun activities or exam-style tests at an assessment centre. The results can determine how much you know about the field you are applying for (e.g. engineering), your current levels of numeracy and literacy, how you react in a work-style situation (with or without others) and a psychometric analysis to determine your personality type. The apprenticeship advert may also mention to expect a medical after applying or even security checks, depending on the role.

Assuming that you successfully pass the assessment(s), you might now reasonably expect an interview. This could be by telephone, in person, in a group with other candidates, facing a panel of interviewers, or perhaps via Skype. We will cover the different ways to approach these interview formats in future blogs, but this is an opportunity for the employer to assess whether you will be a good fit with the culture and requirements of the company as well as a chance for you to find out if it is really for you.

With UCAS, your online application may be sufficient to be offered a place on the course. Alternatively, you may be asked to submit a portfolio of work or additional evidence to support your application. Take this as a positive sign that your application is being seriously considered.

Following that, you may well be invited for a Department Open Day reserved for those who have already applied for the course. This is a chance to meet the lecturers, view the facilities, meet current students and determine if it is the right place for you to study for the next 3 or 4 years. Either before or during this visit, you could well be invited for interview to determine if you are right for the course and for the Uni. Again, any invitation should be viewed positively as an opportunity to impress.

And finally …

Whereas Open Days were once the exclusive domain of academia, there are an increasing number of these events being held for apprenticeships as well. We either advertise them on Careersnearhere.com in the relevant careers room on the Inspiration noticeboard – or on the Multi-sector noticeboard. Worth a look …

On Careersnearhere.com, we’ve gathered these local courses and apprenticeships together in one place for you as well as relevant work experience for your CV.

Careersnearhere.com: It’s Your Future – Let’s Get It Started!

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